White House Says Child Soldiers Are Ok, if They Fight Terrorists
“You cannot be completely happy with all these wounds—both in your body and in your mind.”
—15 year-old child soldier
The phenomenon of child soldiers, like genocide, slavery and torture, seems like one of those crimes that no nation could legitimately defend. Yet the Obama administration just decided to leave countless kids stranded on some of the world’s bloodiest battlegrounds.
The administration stunned human rights groups last month by sidestepping a commitment to help countries curb the military exploitation of children. Josh Rogin at Foreign Policy reported that President Obama issued a presidential memorandum granting waivers from the Child Soldiers Prevention Act to four countries: Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan and Yemen. The memo instructed Secretary of State Hilary Clinton that it is in our “national interest” to continue extending military aid to those countries, despite their failure to comply with the rules Congress passed and George W. Bush signed in 2008.
A thumbs-up for child soldiers from the pen of President Obama? Whitehouse spokesperson P.J. Crowley explained it was a strategic decision to ease the 2008 law. The rationale is that on balance, it’s more effective for the U.S. to keep providing military assistance that will help countries gradually evolve out of the practice of marshaling kids to the battlefield, rather than isolating them.
According to the Christian Science Monitor, Crowley argued, “These countries have put the right policies in place… but are struggling to correctly implement them.” The New York Times reported that administration spokespeople also cited the countries’ crucial role in global counter-terrorism efforts.
Strategically granting certain countries a pass on child rights reflects Washington’s warped attitude toward the global human rights regime. The U.S. has failed to ratify, or simply ignored, numerous human rights protocols, and our ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child has languished. Human Rights Watch points out, “Only the United States and Somalia, which has no functioning national government, have failed to ratify the treaty.” (Although we did ratify two optional protocols in 2002, relating to child soldiers and other forms of exploitation.)
Somalia, by the way, is one of just two countries that the White House allowed to be sanctioned under the 2008 law; the second was Burma. Presumably this is because Somalia is not receiving direct military funding, reports the Monitor. Yet the U.S. continues to support Somali government forces as they fight Islamic insurgents—with the help of a large force of child soldiers. (To their credit, Somalia has at least promised the U.N. they”ll stop arming kids eventually, according to the Washington Post).
Maybe you could argue that the U.S. is so “advanced” it needn’t bother with rules about children’s rights to education and whatnot. Obama’s waivers might be seen as realpolitik in areas like Yemen, whose military we support as part of our sprawling counter-terrorism operations. But the bottom line is that the administration has carved out an exception to a law intended to ethically guide the flow of U.S. aid money around the world.
According to the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, which holds America to the same scrutiny that countries like Uganda and DRC routinely face in the media, we benefit indirectly and directly from the exploitation of child fighters:
In 2006 the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) registered 59 children in detention during 16 visits to five places of detention or internment controlled by the USA or the UK in Iraq. US soldiers stationed at the detention centres and former detainees described abuses against child detainees, including the rape of a 15-year-old boy at Abu Ghraib, Iraq, forced nudity, stress positions, beating and the use of dogs. Following US troop increases in Iraq in early 2007, US military arrests of children there rose from an average of 25 per month in 2006 to an average of 100 per month. Military officials reported that 828 were children held at Camp Cropper by mid-September, including children as young as 11. A 17-year-old was reportedly strangled by a fellow detainee in early 2007.
In August 2007 the USA opened Dar al-Hikmah, a non-residential facility intended to provide education services to 600 detainees aged 11-17 pending release or transfer to Iraqi custody. US military officials excluded an estimated 100 children from participation in the program, apparently on the grounds that they were “extremists” and “beyond redemption”.
Omar Khadr, the young Canadian detainee at Guantanamo Bay, remains trapped in a Kafkaesque quasi-judicial system without regard to the fact that he was a child when captured. Rights advocates like Monia Mazigh in Ottowa have called for Khadr to be recognized as a child soldier, but the administration seems to think securing a conviction in Kangaroo Court takes precedence over international law. And because Khadr, like the other Gitmo prisoners, is identified with that faceless dark horde the U.S. has branded “terrorists,” Americans aren’t even inclined to see him as a human being, let alone as a juvenile soldier deserving of sympathy.
So America’s hypocrisy on children in war has many layers. Obama condemns the practice in theory, then undermines federal law by issuing waivers for our partners in Africa and the Middle East. And of course, Washington sees no problem with punishing child soldiers as adults when they’re aligned with the terrorists who are bent on destroying America.
UN Treaties alone obviously won’t demobilize all the world’s child soldiers, but their main role is to put down a legal placeholder. And it’s that moral guidepost that the U.S. undermines every time it waives parallel U.S. laws based on the “national interest.”
Obama’s memorandum may look jarring on paper, but it’s grimly consistent with Washington’s agenda of waging war indefinitely, without boundaries, against an enemy we can no longer really define. The U.S. supports warfare that uses children as weapons, warfare that kills civilian children indiscriminately, warfare that ultimately sends our own children to perish on foreign soil. And so America marches on in a world of conflict where the first casualty is innocence itself.
Billions in Afghanistan aid dollars unaccounted for: audit
by Staff Writers – Washington (AFP) Oct 28, 2010 fROM http://www.terradaily.com
Nearly 18 billion dollars earmarked for reconstruction in Afghanistan remain unaccounted for, snagged in a “labyrinth” of contract bureaucracy, a sweeping US government audit has shown.
The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) said 17.7 billion dollars was obligated over three years to nearly 7,000 contractors, but the Pentagon, State Department and US Agency for International Development were unable to say how much money has been spent.
The audit addresses fiscal years 2007 through 2009, but the problems go back to 2002 when the United States began funding Afghan reconstruction, because “much of the data available from the agencies prior to 2007 was too poor to be analyzed,” the report said.
And years into the reconstruction there is still no central government database to monitor the projects from various US agencies and departments, SIGAR found in its report, which was seen Thursday by AFP.
“Prior to this audit report there was no comprehensive study on contractors and the money the US is spending through contractors on Afghan reconstruction,” said special inspector general Arnold Fields in the first such snapshot of the reconstruction contracting environment in war-torn Afghanistan.
“This audit is crucial because if we don’t even know who we’re giving money to, it is nearly impossible to conduct system-wide oversight.”
Reconstruction is a key component in a US-led anti-insurgency effort which seeks to stabilize the volatile south and east of Afghanistan, in part by helping Afghan farmers and improving local government.
Asked about the report, State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said it did not come as a surprise and that the administration has been working to improve accountability.
“I don’t think we’re surprised that as we’re going through this, we’re going to have reports like this that show weaknesses,” Crowley told reporters.
He said the report would contribute to “our efforts to improve our cooperation with the Afghan government and improve the ability of the Afghan government to be responsible and accountable for the support that we do provide.”
The SIGAR said its report, addressed to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and US ambassador to Baghdad Karl Eikenberry, “shows that navigating the confusing labyrinth of government contracting is difficult, at best.”
It said the Department of Defense alone has four organizations set up to track Pentagon-funded contracts, but they do not share information. Cross-agency information sharing is also minimal, it found.
SIGAR, mandated by Congress to try and track reconstruction spending, identified nearly 7,000 contractor groups, including for-profit and non-profit groups as well as government agencies involved in Afghanistan.
Among the largest contracts, it said, is a deal worth 1.8 billion dollars to a US-based company to train Afghanistan’s national police forces, and 691 million dollars to an Afghan construction firm to build military facilities.
The future of the reconstruction effort in Afghanistan is believed to be in jeopardy because of President Hamid Karzai’s threatened ban on private security guards, which aid organizations rely on for protection.
Nicolas Sarkozy warned by German Chancellor not to unveil £150m ‘bling’ presidential jet
With riots in the streets and poll ratings in the basement, French President Nicolas Sarkozy is under pressure from both home and abroad to delay delivery of a refitted jet that will cost the taxpayer £151million.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is among those who have apparently told the luxury loving Sarkozy that now might not be the best time to take charge of the aircraft that is said to be dripping with ‘bling’.
German sources say she advised Sarkozy earlier this week, at a meeting where the pair cut a controversial deal aimed at protecting the euro, to ‘hold back’ on taking deliver of the aircraft currently undergoing a series of final test flights over the Indian Ocean and South Pacific French administered islands.
Mrs. Merkel, who takes her official flights aboard a choice of two aircraft, is concerned along with other European leaders that such blatant excess might only further fuel the French protests against unpopular austerity measures.
With French lawmakers voting yesterday to pass the bill raising the minimum retirement age to 62 from 60, the new presidential aircraft — an Airbus A330-200 dubbed ‘Air Sarko One’ – was being prepared for its flight to France.
Mr Sarkozy is said to be locked in talks with everyone from his image advisers to the treasury about the possibility of parking the plane somewhere until the fighting mood in France dies down.
Team Sarkozy seems divided. Those who think the aircraft should fly in, the tricolour of France blazoned across its tail, point out that they have already given a nod to the new age of austerity by agreeing to refurbish a 12-year-old aircraft instead of buying a new one.
But opponents see it as one more Marie Antoinette-esque gesture from a president whose bodyguards are working overtime to protect him in the wake of the convulsions his policies have caused.
Leaders of the Socialist opposition are portraying its purchase as proof of his continuing distance from reality.
‘We understand that the president has been very demanding about the fittings and that they are quite luxurious,’ said René Dosière, a Socialist MP from recession-hit northern Picardy.
‘At a moment when he is already so unpopular, I imagine this could cause him to lose more points.’
Already the costs of the plane have been budgeted to the defence ministry rather than the Elysee Palace. It can accommodate a Sarkozy entourage of 60, has a conference room seating 11, an office and a presidential bedroom suite.
‘The A330 will meet the many international travel needs of the head of state — for example, those related to the next presidency by France of the G-20 and the G-8,’ said Col. Francis Pollet, head of resource management of the defence ministry.
A weekend opinion poll by Journal du Dimanche showed Sarkozy’s approval rating at 29 percent, the lowest in memory for any French president.
The defence ministry insists that the plane will not be replete with luxuries, despite the presidential bedroom, private shower and fitted galley kitchen.
One of his spokesmen threatened legal action earlier this year against a plumber who said he was told to install a luxury bath – a statement later retracted as ‘a joke’.
‘There is very little that they can achieve on an A330 that can’t be achieved on a normal business jet,’ said Doug McVitie to the New York Times.
The managing director of Arran Aerospace, a consulting firm in Dinan, France, added: ‘How often do they have to travel such long distances requiring a bed and a shower.
‘These aircraft are just an attempt to make a statement through ostentation.’
Osama bin Laden: A dead nemesis perpetuated by the US government
– Bin Laden’s voice was detected regularly until [14 December 2001] by intelligence operatives monitoring radio transmissions in Tora Bora, according to the Pentagon [details]. Since then, nothing has been heard from the al-Qa’eda leader and President Bush has hinted in private that bin Laden’s silence could mean he has been killed. [Telegraph, 12/28/2001]
– Osama bin Laden is dead. The news first came from sources in Afghanistan and Pakistan almost six months ago: the fugitive died in December  and was buried in the mountains of southeast Afghanistan. Pakistan’s president, Pervez Musharraf, echoed the information. The remnants of Osama’s gang, however, have mostly stayed silent, either to keep Osama’s ghost alive or because they have no means of communication.
– With an ego the size of Mount Everest, Osama bin Laden would not have, could not have, remained silent for so long if he were still alive. He always liked to take credit even for things he had nothing to do with. Would he remain silent for nine months and not trumpet his own survival? [New York Times. July 11, 2002]
– FOX News Report: Bin Laden Already Dead Usama bin Laden has died a peaceful death due to an untreated lung complication, the Pakistan Observer reported, citing a Taliban leader who allegedly attended the funeral of the Al Qaeda leader. [Fox News. December 26, 2001]
– Bin Laden has often been reported to be in poor health. Some accounts claim that he is suffering from Hepatitis C, and can expect to live for only two more years. According to Le Figaro, last year  he ordered a mobile dialysis machine to be delivered to his base at Kandahar in Afghanistan. [Guardian]]
– Peter Bergen: Bin Laden has aged ‘enormously’ This is a man who was clearly not well. I mean, as you see from these pictures here, he’s really, by December  he’s looking pretty terrible. Bin Laden December 27, 2001 video But by December, of course, that tape that was aired then, he’s barely moving the left side of his body. So he’s clearly got diabetes. He has low blood pressure. He’s got a wound in his foot. He’s apparently got dialysis … for kidney problems. [CNN]
– The [December 27, 2001 video] was dismissed by the Bush administration … as sick propaganda possibly designed to mask the fact the al-Qa’eda leader was already dead. “He could have made the video and then ordered that it be released in the event of his death,” said one White House aide. [Telegraph]
– Pakistan’s Musharraf: Bin Laden probably dead Pakistan’s president says he thinks Osama bin Laden is most likely dead because the suspected terrorist has been unable to get treatment for his kidney disease. [A Bush administration official] said U.S. intelligence is that bin Laden needs dialysis every three days and “it is fairly obvious that that could be an issue when you are running from place to place, and facing the idea of needing to generate electricity in a mountain hideout.” [CNN]
– Renal dialysis — talking about hemodialysis — is something that really is reserved for patients in end-stage renal failure. That means their kidneys have just completely shut down. The most common cause of something like that would be something like diabetes and hypertension. Once that’s happened, if you’re separated from your dialysis machine — and incidentally, dialysis machines require electricity, they’re going to require clean water, they’re going to require a sterile setting — infection is a huge risk with that. If you don’t have all those things and a functioning dialysis machine, it’s unlikely that you’d survive beyond several days or a week at the most. [CNN]
– Karzai: bin Laden ‘probably’ dead Osama bin Laden is “probably” dead, but former Taliban leader Mullah Omar is alive, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has said. [CNN] FBI: Bin Laden ‘probably’ dead The US Federal Bureau of Investigation’s counter-terrorism chief, Dale Watson, says he thinks Osama bin Laden is “probably” dead. [BBC] Magazine runs what it calls bin Laden’s will The editor-in-chief of a London-based Arab news magazine said a purported will it published Saturday was written late last year  by Osama bin Laden, and shows “he’s dying or he’s going to die soon.” [CNN]
– Usama bin Laden has died a peaceful death due to an untreated lung complication, the Pakistan Observer reported, citing a Taliban leader who allegedly attended the funeral of the Al Qaeda leader. “The Coalition troops are engaged in a mad search operation but they would never be able to fulfill their cherished goal of getting Usama alive or dead,” the source said. [FOX News]
– Translation of Funeral Article in Egyptian Paper: al-Wafd, Wednesday, December 26, 2001 Vol 15 No 4633News of Bin Laden’s Death and Funeral 10 days ago
– A prominent official in the Afghan Taleban movement announced yesterday the death of Osama bin Laden, the chief of al-Qa’da organization, stating that binLaden suffered serious complications in the lungs and died a natural and quiet death. [Welfare State]
– Osama bin who? Israel does not view bin Laden as a threat. [Janes] Israeli intelligence: Bin Laden is dead, heir has been chosen Israeli sources said Israel and the United States assess that Bin Laden probably died in the U.S. military campaign in Afghanistan in December. They said the emergence of new messages by Bin Laden are probably fabrications, Middle East Newsline reported. [World Tribune] [See also The Fake bin Laden Audio Tape] [See also Benazir Bhutto says Osama is dead.]
– Osama bin Laden” Fitter than ever in 2004
When you hear a threat which is “probably” made by bin Laden, just remember that he’s “probably” dead.Also think about who benefits from your believing he’s alive.
Dark chocolate prevents damage from strokes
From http://www.naturalnews.com Monday, October 04, 2010 by: David Gutierrez, staff writer
NaturalNews) Researchers from Johns Hopkins University believe they have discovered a biochemical pathway by which a chemical naturally found in dark chocolate can help protect the body from strokes.
Previous research has shown that a flavanol known as epicatechin appears to protect the body against cardiovascular disease and stroke. In the current study, researchers induced strokes in mice and then dosed them with epicatechin to observe how the chemical acted in their bodies.
“We gave different doses of epicatechin in mice 90 minutes before a stroke and found that it reduced infarct [stroke damage] size,” lead researcher Sylvain Dore said. “When we gave epicatechin after a stroke, it had a protective effect up to 3.5 hours later, but not after six hours.”
The researchers found that epicatechin activated two chemical pathways known to protect brain cells from damage, the Nrf2 pathway and the heme oxygenase pathway. When the researchers later induced stroke in mice genetically modified to lack both pathways, epicatechin had no protective effect.
The researchers suggested that epicatechin may one day form the basis for a drug to protect the brain from damage in those who have suffered strokes. The three-hour duration of the protective benefit is particularly encouraging, as modern pharmaceuticals are protective for a much shorter period. But Dore warned that it will be years, if ever, before such a treatment can be developed.
“Chocolate comes with a lot of calories,” said flavanol researcher and doctoral candidate Martin Lajous of Harvard University. “I would talk about small amounts of dark chocolate rather than chocolate in general.”
“I prefer to focus on cocoa,” Dore said. “Cocoa is not like chocolate, which is high in saturated fat and calories. Cocoa can be part of a healthy diet, combined with fruits and vegetables.”